Chisenhale Gallery presents The Meaning, a major solo exhibition by British artist Tariq Alvi. Working intuitively, recycling and re-contextualizing found printed matter from newspapers and magazine advertising, Alvi’s labour-intensive works present us with both disarmingly simple and complex aesthetic forms that reflect upon contemporary society.
Alvi presents a group of sculptures, paintings and collages that meditate on the relationships between economy, desire and materiality. Always There, Always Three incorporates Alvi’s characteristic formal motif of hundreds of cut-out prices from magazines and trade fliers, here arranged around the imposing form of a three-metre long tree trunk. Dyslexic Dancer maps out an abstract depiction of sexuality and desire, its plate glass surface, splicing a mirrored cube, is adorned with nebulous colourful forms constructed out of torn up pages from gay club magazines; the visceral grubbiness of these figures butts up against mannered references to the tasteful formality of minimalist forms. Mirrors also feature in Oasis, a version of which Alvi first made in Club Oase in Maastricht in 1997, onto which are collaged cut-outs of male and female models, which both articulate and disrupt the potential for self-reflection.
The works in The Meaning all shift restlessly between surface and subject matter and Alvi consciously plays with a disjuncture between the two in the way he appropriates and juxtaposes images and information. The exhibition’s title work comprises a painting produced by a professional painter, copied and dramatically enlarged from a collage made by Alvi incorporating pages torn from an interiors magazine depicting glass doorknobs piled on plates like sweets; this exaggerated image of consumer culture’s economy of luxury goods becomes even more excessive and strange in its painted manifestation. Precisely, also based on one of Alvi’s collages and further ornamented with more cut-out magazine prices, implicates the body in the machinations of economic exchange and the hierarchies of value – of appropriation and hand craftsmanship – engendered in the processes of production.
Tariq Alvi is a British artist based in London. Solo exhibitions include Badischer Kunstverein, Karlsruhe (2009); 2nd Floor Projects, San Francisco (2008); Cabinet, London (2007); CCA Wattis Institute for Contemporary Arts, San Francisco (2005) and the Whitechapel Art Gallery, London (2001).